What are the best practices / resources for starting an online community for customers?


Greetings! I am a CSM and am looking to start an online community for customers. I am interested in any resources (podcasts, articles, blog posts, courses etc) or best practices that might be out there on this topic.

Thank you!!!

Best Answer

  • Alexander Ziegler
    Alexander Ziegler Founding Member | Expert ✭✭✭
    Answer ✓

    On the best practices side: My biggest recommendation is to not look for products or solutions at first, and start with client research and a design thinking workshop: pull all stakeholders together, work on the strategy, including the personas and why you're doing this and what problem you want to solve. Based on this look for a solution. I had been involved in a project, where we all thought about communities, and after going back and doing the basic work with a design thinking session plus client research we understood how we wanted to approach the project (and the community was in this case the 2nd project after solving other client needs).


  • KarisaEberly

    Thank you @AlexanderZiegler !!! These are great points and a really important reminder before diving too far into the Community Space.

  • StevenForth
    StevenForth Founding Partner | Expert ✭✭✭

    The suggestion to begin with design thinking is a good one. Design thinking can be kicked off in a workshop, but it requires much more than one workshop to cycle through the five phases: empathise, define, ideate, prototype, test. As an alternative, Kees Dorst's Frame Innovation approach is even more powerful than design thinking a la IDEO and d.school.

    Another thing you may want to try is putting the community in the context of the customer journey. At what touchpoints does the community get introduced? What new touchpoints are created?

    I would complement this with a value study. What differentiated value is being created for customers. Is it economic, emotional or community value? How will it be recognized and documented.

    Going beyond this, is the community an appendage or a central part of a growth strategy? Will potential customers also be able to join the community or is it only for existing customers? What about past customers?

    Lots to consider, but a lot of these questions can only be answered by the community itself.

  • AdrianSpeyer
    AdrianSpeyer Member
    edited July 2021

    Hey @KarisaEberly this is a great topic, and I think @StevenForth has given you some great ideas. I work at Higher Logic Vanilla (a SaaS Community solution). The biggest mistake I see people make is the start not answering the larger question of goals: "What kind of support, tools or services are our customers telling us they need to be more successful?"

    In terms of resources around community - for those seeking information, I can recommend the following books:

    Also a big fan of this podcast by Brian Oblinger and Erica Kuhl:

  • KarisaEberly
    KarisaEberly Member
    edited July 2021

    Thank you so much @StevenForth and @AdrianSpeyer . You both have really great questions to consider and awesome resources, Adrian. Excited to get started with the ideas and materials you've recommended. Thank you!!!